New York University, USA
Ismail Fajrie Alatas is Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology and History from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, M.A. in History from the National University of Singapore, and B.A. (Hons) from the University of Melbourne, Australia. His research explores the intersections of religious authority, social formation, mobility, semiotics and communicative practice with a focus on Islamic Law, Sufism, and the Ḥaḍramī diaspora (that is, those who trace their origins to the Ḥaḍramawt valley of Southern Yemen) in Southeast Asia. Along with three monographs on Islam and Sufism in Indonesian, he has also published articles in Comparative Studies in Society and History, Indonesia and the Malay World, Journal of Islamic Studies, Die Welt des Islams, and Studia Islamika, as well as several entries for The Encyclopedia of Islam.
This paper observes the activities of Hadrami scholars and jurists in early nineteenth-century Southeast Asia, an era of economic prosperity for the Hadrami entrepreneurial diaspora of the British Malaya and the Dutch East Indies. Thriving port cities like Singapore and Surabaya were the preferred destinations for many Hadrami merchants and traders, serving as the bases from which they travelled both inland and to other islands. This development led to the increase in the demand for religious teachers from the Hadramawt to come and provide religious instructions to members of this prosperous community. While the estates and mosques of the Hadrami entrepreneurs comprised the nodes that formed the itineraries of traveling Hadrami teachers, their location in buzzing port-cities allowed these teachers to interact with a broader audience. In these emporia, the itineraries of Hadrami scholars intersected with other itineraries generating synergies, but also confrontations.
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